ADAPTING TO COVID-19: DELIVERING A FULLY VIRTUAL EVENTMarch 23, 2020 2:01 pm
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As the coronavirus pandemic worsens across Europe, the event industry will be massively affected by postponements and cancellations. This can prove to be a costly hit for many of us, as we field questions and enquiries from panicked clients over the coming months. We’ve teamed up with London Audio Visual, one of our favourite suppliers, to write two blogs to explore how we can use audio visual solutions to adapt events to protect our attendees. In our second blog, we look at fully virtual delivery.
Can the event realistically go ahead in its current format?
When reviewing whether to go ahead with your event, make sure you are reviewing current UK Government Guidance on COVID-19. At the time writing, there are no UK Government regulations on events and public gatherings, but these are expected over the coming weeks. For context, The Scottish Government have recommended that organisers should cancel or postpone events of 500 people whether they are held inside or outside. The Irish Government are advising that indoor events are limited to 100 people and outdoor events to 500 people. Many venues and event spaces are also expected to close across the country over the coming weeks.
As the situation develops, you may need to review whether your event can realistically go ahead. Depending on the outcome of your event, and your income model, you may be able to adapt for partial or total virtual delivery. It is worth reviewing current numbers of cases in your area, as well as areas in which your attendees are likely to be based to help you make your decision.
Steps to go fully virtual
Green and Gold have the following recommendations to help you adapt your event for partial virtual delivery:
If you have made the difficult decision not to run your event in-person, fear not! There are many options available to help you turn your planned event into a successful 100% virtual event.
Picking a platform
To help you pick a platform, you should think about the extent to which you want your audience to interact with content being delivered. This will largely depend on the type of event you are delivering, for example, if it’s a simple roundtable meeting or planning forum, then you can allow all participants to speak, but with the platform being carefully Chaired by someone who can mute or share questions as they come through. For larger more complex events such as lectures or conferences, you may need to allocate different roles to different people to manage who can speak and engage at any one time. Where people can’t physically speak, you should include other modes of engagement, such as ability to ask questions, answer polls, or contribute to discussion on social media using an event hashtag.
At Green & Gold, we like to use GoToWebinar as it offers comprehensive support to engage large numbers of participants, and allows you to track how they interact with presentations and supporting content. Zoom is another popular choice with similar functions, such as the opportunity to raise hands, answer polls and submit questions to the speakers.
Delivering your event
If your event is presentation based, speakers can either pre-record a presentation or deliver it live. This will depend on time differences and their availability, and will determine the types of interactivity you provide during the session. When delivering webinars, it’s even more important to use engaging slides during presentations. Participants will easily see your slides, and are not likely to be excited about listening to speakers simply read them out loud. Using graphs, photos and video clips make the presentation more engaging, as does allowing for time for questions or answering of polls or quizzes during the presentation. If your event is meeting based, you may want to provide a more detailed agenda on how the meeting will run, and give plenty of information on which platform you are using and what to do before the event begins.
Choosing the right equipment
There are a few considerations you need to consider when preparing a fully virtual event. As well as ensuring that both you and all your speakers have adequate access to the internet, you will also need the right AV equipment. Here at London Audio Visual, we suggest the following:
- Microphones: As with live streaming, we recommend that all speakers use on-person microphones or headsets during the event. Microphones attached to the presenter also ensures that audio is captured when they move their head or adjust their position, avoiding the need for repetition. Ask all your speakers to avoid using laptop microphones; while they provide quality audio, they are more affected by typing or desk activity which can affect the experience of the attendees. You may also need to soundproof the room you’re in when recording, particularly if recording from an office or location with frequent footfall.
- Filming: If you are asking your speakers to present using a webcam or camera, then make sure they share details of the equipment with you. This will help you to see whether their camera is compatible with your platform and to allow you to provide guidance on how best to prepare. We always recommend avoiding built-in laptop webcams due to quality issues, but there are some plug-in varieties that are suitable. Mobile phones can be used, ideally with a stand positioned at the appropriate height and fixed to the desk in case of bumps.
- Lighting: Finding a lighting solution in your office or at home can be very tricky, especially if you are live streaming your presentation. Ideally find a space with lots of natural light that is not likely to change as the presentation progresses (i.e. avoid cloudy skies). If natural light isn’t suitable, overhead lighting can also be problematic, so try to find a lamp that you can position in front of you that won’t be too blinding or distracting. Energy saving bulbs sometimes increase brightness the longer they are turned on, so plan ahead and switch on in good time before you go live!
Green and Gold also recommend that you consider the following:
If you are running an event where you are charging a registration or ticket fee, you may need to review how you charge and/or reimburse participants if you move to a fully virtual event. Having the right equipment for a professional looking virtual event doesn’t come cheap, but you may need to justify why it is worth retaining some or all of ticket fees paid by participants no longer able to attend. Whatever you decide, make sure you check with your insurance company and the Terms and Conditions of sale, and clearly communicate your decision with all participants.
You may also need to review how you engage with your participants following delivery of your event. If the purpose of the event was to provide space for networking, you may wish to create a group on Facebook or LinkedIn either before or after the event takes place. This will also allow you to track engagement and impact of your event, so make sure you include details on privacy and data protection when you invite participants to take part.
Be prepared for change
Again, we are not suggesting that you go ahead and deliver your event against official advice from the UK Government. As the situation is in flux, you are likely to have to postpone the event regardless of whether you can adapt it for safer delivery. It may be best to plan for a totally virtual event to maintain engagement with your attendees, with future physical events planned for the future, once this has all settled down!
Stay calm. We have all seen news coverage of how people are panicking over the outbreak of the virus. If you do not feel as though it is safe or appropriate to deliver your event, then don’t run it. Clear, transparent communication with your attendees and suppliers will help you and your company find solutions later down the line when things calm down. Be safe and drink lots of tea!
Find out more
Click here to read our blog on going 100% virtual.
If you would like to ask Green and Gold Events about how they can support your next event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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